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Western Press Review: Now The Taliban Must Make A Government Work

By Don Hill and Karazyna Wysocka

Prague, 30 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Years ago, in simpler times, U.S. editors used to deride with charges of "Afghanistanism" colleagues who concentrated too much on obscure topics and corners of the world.

When the old Soviet Union invaded the country and lifted it to center stage, the name Afghanistan ceased to be synonymous with "obscure." Now, with the Taliban's accelerating march across these rock-ribbed mountains and verdant plains, Western eyes once again are focused on the Central Asian republic.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The Taliban's arrival may not seem so bad if they bring peace

The paper editorializes today: "The fight for Kabul has concluded for now, but talk of the Afghan capital's falling is misleading. After nearly 17 years of nonstop warfare, there is almost nothing left in Kabul to knock down. As for President Burhanuddin Rabbani, he has exercised so little control over Afghanistan that his government did not so much collapse as simply melt away.

"Sophisticated Kabulis dread the arrival in their midst of the orthodox Muslim Taliban. But the city has been through such hell for so long that the arrival of the bearded ones may not seem so bad if the Taliban also bring peace. But can they?"

The newspaper says: "The Taliban have always insisted that they simply want to restore peace and end corruption in their country, and have no desire to rule.

"But a taste of power does strange things to the most modest of men. The Taliban already have executed the communist former president, Major General Najibullah and his security chief. And even if the Taliban are immune to (power's) spell, they will have a difficult time finding good men to rule for them."

The editorial concludes: "The danger today is, now that the Taliban have taken Kabul, some entirely different and even foreign force will step in to claim the spoils."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The rebels must switch to being rulers

The paper said this weekend, in an editorial signed by Stefan Klein: "The greatest difficulty facing revolutionary leaders (often is) the moment of success. From being rebels in conflict with the rulers, they become rulers themselves overnight and must suddenly switch from war to reconstruction, from killing to healing.

"The radical Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement in Afghanistan, revolutionaries of the toughest sort, now find themselves in precisely this situation. It still remains to be seen whether they can cope with it.

"No one disputes their competence in the art of warfare. Their triumphal march through the country right up to Kabul may even become famous as a masterpiece of strategy. But what comes next is far more difficult."

The editorial concludes: "Even in Kabul, the new rulers cannot afford to feel too sure of themselves. Their predecessors could gather in the mountains, launch an attack on Kabul from there and start the lethal cycle all over again."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Men who were factors of power became marginal figures overnight

In a second editorial in today's paper, Klein writes: "Yesterday president and prime minister; today common criminals, chased, searched and threatened by the Draconian punishments, which are now usual in the theocracy of the radical Islamic Taliban in Afghanistan. Men like Burhanuddin Rabbani (president) and Gulbuddin Hekmatjar (prime minister), who yesterday still seemed to be factors of power, became marginal figures overnight ."

The editorial says: "Hekmatjar already was politically and militarily dead in February, after the Taliban chased him out of his stronghold Charasyab in the South of Kabul."

And adds: "And Rabbani? As a clever intriguer, he managed to keep his position as president a long time, but he never had military power, depending on his commanders, especially on Ahmed Shah Massoud, considered an ingenious strategist because of his successes against the Russian occupiers."

LONDON GUARDIAN: The Taliban shamed themselves by shooting the former president

Correspondent Phil Goodwin writes today from Islamabad, in neighboring Pakistan, in a news analysis: "The (Taliban) militia shamed themselves and the UN when, after taking over the city, they seized the former communist-backed president, Dr. Mohammed Najibullah, from his supposed protection at a UN compound. They shot him and his brother and hung them up outside the presidential palace."

NEW YORK TIMES: Pakistan is shaken by the summary executions

In an analysis in the paper today, John F. Burns writes from Islamabad: "Since the religious movement known as the Taliban began its rise in Afghanistan two years ago, Pakistan has maintained close contacts with the rebel group's leaders and has supported their drive for power. There have been persistent reports, routinely denied by the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, that the Taliban received covert supplies of arms, ammunition and money from Pakistan.

"Now, like other nations in the region, Pakistan is coming to terms with the takeover of Kabul, the Afghan capital, by the Taliban, which is led by militant Islamic clerics. The clerics' opening days in power have been marked by a startling brutality toward former enemies."

Burns says: "Since then Pakistan, a Muslim country that has resisted pressures from militant Muslims at home, has been shaken by the swiftness with which the Taliban have moved to impose their brand of Islamic rule, and in particular by the summary executions that set the tone for the new government."

WASHINGTON POST: The Taliban victory could be a prelude to the formation of a strict Islamic state

Michael Dobs writes today in a news analysis from Washington: "The stunning capture of Kabul by the radical Taliban militia organization represents the best chance in years of ending the anarchy that has wracked Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion of the country in 1979, but it also could be the prelude to the construction of a particularly strict Islamic state, according to U.S. officials and experts.

"Reports from the Afghan capital suggested that the Islamic rebel group had consolidated control over the city after driving out the leaders of the Iranian-backed coalition government and executing former Afghan President Najibullah, the country's last communist ruler. By U.S. estimates, the Taliban now control the southern two-thirds of the country, with the remainder in the hands of Uzbek and Tajik ethnic groups.

"The lightning offensive against Kabul is the culmination of a two-year campaign by the Taliban, a secretive organization that began as a group of seminary students in Pakistan, to reunify the country on the basis of Islamic ideology. Widespread war-weariness and popular disgust with the ineffectiveness and corruption of the previous regime enabled the Taliban to enter Kabul just two weeks after seizing the southern city of Jalalabad."